A Perilous Journey

White-lipped Snail Cepaea hortensis

One summer’s day I observed this White-lipped Snail Cepaea hortensis as it travelled from leaf to leaf on my crab apple tree. It was very slow going, but how it managed to slide and glide from leaf to leaf without falling off was quite something.

White-lipped Snail Cepaea hortensis

Double click on images to enlarge.


August 2017, rear garden, Staffordshire, England.

Who Said Slugs Don’t Like Salt?

Large Red Slug Arion (Arion) rufus

This is the Large Red Slug (Arion (Arion) rufus), and its slimy kind really like to set up camp in my garden to chomp on my plants. Now most people know if you want to reduce the slug population in your garden you can dig a hole in the ground and bury a small container of beer whereby the slugs will be attracted, fall in and will drown their sorrows, and themselves in the process. Another way is to sprinkle salt on them where they will meet a most horrible gooey death. However, contrary to them dying by salt, I came across this one munching on a crisp this afternoon on my back decking, which I thought was quite an odd thing to witness, to say the least.

Large Red Slug Arion (Arion) rufus

This was a beef and onion crisp, yes it was salted, and it could not get enough of it. It devoured the lot, and mopped up any remaining crumbs in one sitting. After desert (too disgusting to mention) it casually slid off between a narrow crack in the decking.

Large Red Slug Arion (Arion) rufus

Large Red Slug Arion (Arion) rufus

September 2017, Staffordshire, England.

Nobody At Home

Garden Snail Cornu aspersum shell

Garden Snail Cornu aspersum shell

I am always fascinated by the intricacies of shells, and how they have evolved to be so. I can’t help but gaze at the top image in wonderment, marvelling at the beauty and bio-engineering involved in its evolution over hundreds of millions of years. All this to protect and shelter the animal inside which had once been feasting on my garden plants.

Garden Snail (Cornu aspersum) rear garden, Staffordshire, England. August 2017.

On The Snail Trail

Garden Snail Cornu aspersum

After another night’s heavy rainfall the Garden Snail (Cornu aspersum) is still out and about.

July 2017, rear garden, Staffordshire, England.

Flash, Again

White-lipped Snail Cepaea hortensis

This was the one that almost got away. So as quick as a flash I just about got him. White-lipped Snail (Cepaea hortensis).


Rear garden, Staffordshire, England. June 2017.

Permanent Residence II

Pfeiffer's Amber Snail Oxyloma elegans

One is a start, two is a couple, and three is a party. Pfeiffer’s Amber Snail (Oxyloma elegans).


Rear garden pond, Staffordshire, England. June 2017.

Permanent Residence

Pfeiffer's Amber Snail Oxyloma elegans

Pfeiffer’s Amber Snail (Oxyloma elegans), appears to have taken up permanent residence on the edge of my back garden pond. Most days, and for weeks, I have seen it on the rocks or on the Yellows Iris.


June 2017.

We Love The Rain

Garden Snail Cornu aspersum
Garden Snail (Cornu aspersum)

After a fair bit of rain I can expect to find these snails out and about in the daytime, where usually they feed under the safe cover of darkness.

White-lipped Snail Cepaea hortensis
White-lipped Snail (Cepaea hortensis)

They can be a pest, especially to my bedding plants and the few vegetables I grow, and my Hosta which looks like it has been riddled with bullets. Yet I still find a fascination with these creatures, and how very well evolved they are for surviving on the land, as opposed to their seafaring cousins.

By the Mesozoic Era, some 248 million years ago, some of these gastropods had adapted in such a way they left the marine environment to live in freshwater and terrestrial habitats. And here they are now, munching through my garden after the June rain has fallen.


Rear garden, Staffordshire, England. June 2017.

About Slugs And Snails

Garden Snail (Cornu aspersum)
Garden Snail (Cornu aspersum)

People maybe surprised to know that molluscs consist of the second largest group of animals on earth after the insects, with some 100,000 species plus. Of this group the gastropods are the largest of the mollusc group, with more than 50,000 species globally. They  have been around for at least 500 million years. Their habitats can be marine, freshwater, estuarine, or terrestrial. Included in this class are the shell covered snails. limpets, sea hares, and the shell-less slugs.

Slug Eggs
Slug Eggs

The body of the snail consists of a large muscular foot, a visceral hump which is contained within an asymmetrically coiled shell (a univalve) a head with eyes and tentacles, and a mouth that contains a rasping tongue used to remove, crush and grind food. Most species of snail are herbivores, whilst others feed on live prey or carrion. They are mainly active at night so their bodies do not dry out in the sun, and during the day they hide in dark, damp places. Those with shells which not only give them some protection against predation, but also protection from desiccation, hide within them and seal themselves against rocks, stones, or vegetation.


Large Red Slug (Arion (Arion) rufus)
Large Red Slug (Arion (Arion) rufus)

Order: Stylommatophora (Air-breathing Terrestrial Slugs & Snails)
This taxon, now considered to be a clade, is a very large group of pulmonate (air-breathing) land snails and slugs. They are characterised by having two pairs of retractile tentacles with eyes located on the tips of the larger tentacles.


Wandering Pond Snail (Radix peregra)
Wandering Pond Snail (Radix peregra)

Order: Basommatophora (Freshwater Snails)
In this order are the air-breathing land snails which are found in ponds, ditches, streams, rivers and shallow lakes. They are characterised by having their eyes located at the base of their non-retractile tentacles, rather than at the tips, as in the true land snails in the order Stylommatophora. The majority of basommatophorans have shells that are thin, translucent, and which are fairly colourless.


Purple Topshell (Gibbula umbilcalis)
Purple Topshell (Gibbula umbilcalis)

Order: Neogastropoda (Whelks, Cones & Tritons)
These gastropods are mainly deposit feeders or predators. They all have a well-developed siphon for detecting prey. The larger bottom-dwelling carnivores commonly feed on bivalve molluscs, other gastropods, sea urchins, polychaete  worms, and even fish. They will often burrow into the sand to reach their prey.


Dog Whelk (Nucella lapillus)
Dog Whelk (Nucella lapillus)

Order: Neotaenioglossa (New Gastropods)
This order of mollusc is believed to have evolved around 70 million years ago during    the last days of the dinosaurs. They are characterised by the possession of only one gill, one auricle, one kidney and by siphon. This order is generally considered to be the most advanced of the prosobranch molluscs, which include the familiar whelks.

Flat Periwinkle (Littorina obtusata)
Flat Periwinkle (Littorina obtusata)

Tree Slug

Lehmannia marginata

Tree Slug (Lehmannia marginata)

A pale, translucent slug which is greyish-buff colour, and has a pair of dark lines running along its sides. Length 60 to 90mm.

It can be seen all year-long, and is found in on trees, usually in wet weather. It produces large amounts of watery mucous when disturbed as a defence measure. Common and widespread in woodland in W Britain and Ireland.


Photograph taken June 2015,  rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2015. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.

Chestnut Slug

Deroceras invadens

Chestnut Slug (Deroceras invadens)

Also called the ‘Brown Field Slug’, this has a translucent grey-brown body, although it may be darker. The mantle is usually tinged chestnut, and it usually, but not always, has a pale ring around its respiratory pore. It has a very short keel. The mucus is colourless. Quite a fast-moving slug. Length 25 to 35mm.

This slug can be a significant pest in gardens, allotments and nurseries and will eat many types of plants and seedlings.

Found in woods, but especially parks and gardens. Discovered under logs, stones and paving. Introduced to Britain and Ireland in the early 1930s, and has spread rapidly since 1975 and has become common and widespread.


Photograph taken November 2012, rear garden, Staffordshire. Nikon Coolpix P500. © Pete Hillman 2012.

Two Gapers

Sand Gaper (Mya arenaria)

I have shown the two gaper shells on one post to illustrate how different they are, beginning with the Sand Gaper above.

Sand Gaper (Mya arenaria)

A large and robust bivalve, the shell is oval in shape, the anterior end rounded, the posterior end more pointed.  It has concentric ridges and is off-white, grey or light brown in colour. Shell length 15cm.

The Sand Gaper burrows to a depth of 50cm into mud and sandflats, where it filters organic matter from sea water. It is often found in estuaries, and is widespread and locally common.


Blunt Gaper (Mya truncata)

Blunt Gaper (Mya truncata)

A thick-shelled, robust bivalve, rectangular in shape with a truncate posterior margin. It also has numerous concentric lines and is off-white in colour. Shell length up to 70mm.

It is commonly found in estuaries where it buries itself to a fair depth. Widespread and locally common, especially on the east coast of Britain.


Photographs taken April 2013, Llandudno, Wales. Camera Nikon Coolpix P500. © Pete Hillman 2013.

 

Baltic Tellin

Macoma balthica

Baltic Tellin (Macoma balthica)

The shell is a rounded-oval, although the posterior more angled. The colour is variable from pink to purple, yellow and white. Width 25mm.

Baltic Tellin (Macoma balthica)

It is found on the lower shore in muddy sand, and also in estuaries. Common and widespread.

Baltic Tellin (Macoma balthica)

Baltic Tellin (Macoma balthica)

Photographs taken June 2012, Llandudno, Wales. Camera Nikon Coolpix P500. © Pete Hillman 2012.

Green Cellar Slug

Limacus maculatus

Green Cellar Slug (Limacus maculatus)

Also called the ‘Irish Yellow Slug’, this is a medium-sized to large slug with a short keel. The body colour varies from pale ochre through to yellow-green to grey. The body has dark blotches or spots. The mucous is colourless. It has grey-blue tentacles. Similar to the Yellow Cellar Slug (Limacus flavus), which is a brighter yellow, has smaller spots and blotches, and has blue tentacles. Length 80 to 130mm.

Green Cellar Slug (Limacus maculatus)

It feeds on seedlings, vegetables, fungi, lichen, and decaying matter. It will even feed on pet food found indoors and old, damp wallpaper.

Commonly associated with gardens and houses, and it will venture indoors after dark. It prefers dark and moist habitats, and it may frequent cellars, greenhouses and sheds. Common and widespread throughout Britain and Ireland.

Photographs of Green Cellar Slug (Limacus maculatus), taken January 2014, front drive, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2014. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Nikon 18-55mm lens.

Common Cockle

Cerastoderma edule

Common Cockle (Cerastoderma edule)

The shell of the Common Cockle is cream to pale yellow or brownish, and it has 22-28 radiating ribs crossed by prominant concentric ridges which may bare short spines. Length up to 5cm.

Common Cockle (Cerastoderma edule)

It is found in muddy, sandy and fine gravel shores, from the middle to lower shore. Utilising a muscular foot, it burrows up to 5cm into the sand, and when covered by water they open their shells and extend a pair of short siphons to filter-feed on zooplankton. It can live up to 10 years, and is fished commercially and prayed upon by wading birds. It is common and widespread.

Common Cockle (Cerastoderma edule)

Common Cockle (Cerastoderma edule)

Photographs of Common Cockle (Cerastoderma edule), taken August 2011, Saundersfoot, Wales. © Pete Hillman 2011. Camera used Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38.

Brown-lipped Snail

Cepaea nemoralis

Brown-lipped Snail (Cepaea nemoralis)

Also known as the ‘Grove Snail’ or the ‘Banded Snail’, the lip of the shell is always dark brown. The shell colour is variable, from cream, yellow, brown or pink, and is often similar to the White-lipped Snail (Cepaea hortensis). Shell diameter 20 to 24mm.

Brown-lipped Snail (Cepaea nemoralis)

Found in a range of habitats, but favours woodland, hedgerows, meadows and sand dunes. Also found in gardens. It feeds on a wide range of vegetation. Common and widespread throughout, except northern Scotland.

Brown-lipped Snail (Cepaea nemoralis)

Brown-lipped Snail (Cepaea nemoralis)

Photographs of Brown-lipped Snail (Cepaea nemoralis), taken October 2011, local field, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2011. Camera used Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38.

Kentish Snail

Monacha cantiana

Kentish Snail (Monacha cantiana)

Also called the ‘Kentish Garden Snail’, the shell is mainly a light buff colour, graduating to a darker brown flush towards the mouth opening. Shell diameter 15mm.

Kentish Snail (Monacha cantiana)

Found in gardens, disturbed ground, waste ground, road verges and dunes. Introduced to Britain by farmers in late Roman times. Common and widespread.

Kentish Snail (Monacha cantiana)

Photographs of Kentish Snail (Monacha cantiana), taken June 2012, found under rotting log, local wood,  Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2012. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.

Striped Venus Clam

Chamelea gallina

Striped Venus Clam (Chamelea gallina)

The colour of the shell is pale cream or yellowish, usually marked with three prominent radiating brown bands. It is fairly thick and has fine concentric ridges. Length 4cm.

Striped Venus Clam (Chamelea gallina)

Striped Venus Clam (Chamelea gallina)

It is found buried in the lower shore to sublittoral, and it can live up to 10 years. Common and widespread on all coasts, except the south-east coast of England.

Striped Venus Clam (Chamelea gallina)

Striped Venus Clam (Chamelea gallina)

Photographs of Striped Venus Clam (Chamelea gallina), taken August 2011, Saundersfoot, Wales. © Pete Hillman 2011. Camera used Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38.

Banded Wedge Shell

Donax vittatus

Banded Wedge Shell (Donax vittatus)

This mollusc has a shiny white to yellow, purple or greyish-brown slender wedge-shaped shell. Growth stages show as pale bands. The inner surfaces are tinted white, purple, yellow or orange. Length up to 38mm.

Banded Wedge Shell (Donax vittatus)

Found on the middle to lower shore where it burrows into coarse sand and lives just below the surface. The Banded Wedge Shell is a filter feeder, and when the tide is in it extracts food particles from the water via a syphon. Common and widespread on all British and Irish coasts, but less common further north on Scottish coastlines.

Photographs of Banded Wedge Shell (Donax vittatus), taken August 2011, Saundersfoot, Wales. © Pete Hillman 2011. Camera used Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38.

Bean Solen

Pharus legumen

Bean Solen (Pharus legumen)

The shell is elongate, thin and brittle. There are numerous fine concentric lines, with a group of fine radiating striae. It is white or light brown, light olive or yellow. The hinge and ligament is positioned about a third of the way along the length of the mollusc. Length up to 130mm.

Bean Solen (Pharus legumen)

It burrows deeply in fine to medium course sands in the lower shore and shallow sublittoral. Found on the south-west coasts of England, Wales and Ireland.

Bean Solen (Pharus legumen)

Photographs of Bean Solen (Pharus legumen), taken August 2011, Saundersfoot, Wales. © Pete Hillman 2011. Camera used Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38.

Common Limpet

Patella vulgata

Common Limpet (Patella vulgata)

Have you ever wondered what the underside of a limpet looked like? Note the large muscular foot, the relatively small mouth above, and the tentacles either side.

The Common Limpet has an ashen-grey or greenish-blue shell, sometimes with a yellow tint, and with radiating ridges. It is conical with an almost central apex. The shell is often covered in barnacles. The sole of the foot is yellowish or orange-brownish with a green tinge. Shell length 6cm. They are fairly long-lived, up to 15 years.

Common Limpet (Patella vulgata)

It inhabits the intertidal zone, clinging tightly to rocks along the shore or in rock pools, and with its thick shell it is able to withstand the pounding ocean waves, exposure to drying out, and attacks from birds or fish. It grazes on algae growing on the rocks beneath the water. It is not ‘stuck’ in one position as it may always appear to be, but follows a mucous trail as it feeds and finds it way back. Scarring maybe evident on the substrate where it has ground it down to get the perfect fit. Common and widespread around the British coasts.

Common Limpet (Patella vulgata)

Photographs of Common Limpet (Patella vulgata), taken August 2011, Saundersfoot, Wales. © Pete Hillman 2011. Camera used Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38.

Common Mussel

Mytilus edulis

Common Mussel (Mytilus edulis)

Also called the ‘Blue Mussel’, the shells are dark brown, blue-black, or purple in colour. Shell length up to 10cm.

Common Mussel (Mytilus edulis)

It is found middle to lower shore, and attaches itself to rocks via byssus threads. It will also find crevices in the rocks, or attach themselves to manmade structures like piers and harbour walls. They can form large beds up to 6 layers thick and covering many square kilometres. Mussels are filter feeders of plankton, pumping large amounts of water through their bodies to extract the food.

Common Mussel (Mytilus edulis)

Very common and widespread all around the British coast.

Common Mussel (Mytilus edulis)

This is an edible marine mussel which has been harvested by humans for centuries. They are a rich source of protein, and are very important to the marine life ecosystem.

Common Mussel (Mytilus edulis)

Photographs of Common Mussel (Mytilus edulis), taken August 2011, Saundersfoot, Wales. © Pete Hillman 2011. Camera used Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38.

Common Cuttlefish

Sepia officinalis

Common Cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis)

We often find the remains of the cuttlefish shell called the ‘cuttlebone’ washed upon our shores, rather than the animal itself. It is a casting of the dead animal, and is a white,  hard brittle internal structure, which is filled with gas to help the cuttlefish remain buoyant. The cast cuttlebone is often given to pet birds and reptiles as a source of calcium.

Cuttlefish have very large eyes and mouths like beaks. The body is wide and flattened, and a fin runs from behind the body from the head. There are eight arms encircling the mouth with suckers, which helps the cuttlefish to manipulate its prey. It also has two other tentacles which help the creature to snare its prey. It has amazing abilities of camouflage, and can change its colour to blend in with any surrounding. It can grow up 45cm in length.

It feeds on small fish, crabs, molluscs, and other species of cuttlefish, even its own. When threatened the Common Cuttlefish releases an ink known as sepia to produce a protective cloud about itself to confuse predators. Cuttlefish are one of the most intelligent of all invertebrates, and belong with the same group of molluscs as the octopuses and squids. It can live between 1 to 2 years.

The cuttlebone is often found washed up on beaches, where as the creature itself lives in the shallows to depths of 200m. It is common and widespread.

Photographs of Common Cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis), taken August 2012, Bournemouth, Dorset. © Pete Hillman 2012. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.

Common Periwinkle

Littorina littorea

Common Periwinkle (Littorina littorea)

Also called the ‘Edible Periwinkle’, the shell is variable in colour, from black and grey to brown, white or red, and usually patterned with spiral dark lines. It is conical in shape with a pointed apex. This is the largest British periwinkle, but is usually smaller than 50mm.

Common Periwinkle (Littorina littorea)

It favours rocky shores upper to lower zones with a good covering of seaweed. It can also be found in mud-flats or esturaries. The Common Periwinkle is a herbivore which grazes on seaweeds. Widespread and abundant throughout.

Common Periwinkle (Littorina littorea)

Photographs of Common Periwinkle (Littorina littorea) taken June 2012 (top 2 photos) and April 2014 (bottom photo), Llandudno, Wales. © Pete Hillman 2012 and 2014. Cameras used Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 and Nikon D3200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.

Well Worn But Ready For Autumn

White-lipped Snail – Cepaea hortensis

Photograph of the White-lipped Snail (Cepaea hortensis), taken September 2016, front garden , Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D7200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.

Garden Snail

Cornu aspersum

You only have to pop out into your garden on a rainy day, or venture out during the night hours to find one of these slippery creatures going for your plants. This morning I happened to move my bird bath and there he was, hunkered down and sheltered for the day. However I awoke him, and as grumpy as he was (he blew bubbles at me), he obliged me a photo shoot between rain showers.

The shell of this snail can be marbled brown, black or yellow-ochre, and has fine wrinkles. Shell diameter 40mm.

Individuals contain both reproductive organs and are capable of self-fertilisation, although cross-fertilisation is the normal way.

They live in quite varied habitats, from woodland and hedgerows, to gardens and allotments, where they can be serious pests. Mainly feeding nocturnally, or after rain, they consume various plants, and can do a lot of damage. Common and widespread throughout lowland Britain, absent from most of Scotland.

Photographs taken July 2016, rear garden, Staffordshire.

Flat Periwinkle

Littorina obtusata

The colour of the shell of this small snail varies depending on its habitat, and it can be green, orange, yellow, brown or black. There are also banded and chequered patterned forms. The head tentacles of the animal have two lines along them. The shell is finely reticulate. Shell height up to 1.5cm.

Found on the middle to lower shower on large brown seaweeds such as Egg Wrack (Ascophyllum nodosum) and Toothed Wrack (Fucus serratus) on which it feeds. Common on widespread throughout.

Photographs taken August 2015, rockpool, Meadfoot Beach, Torquay, Devon.

Rounded Snail

Discus rotundatus

I find it quite amazing what you can discover by the simple act of turning over a log.

Also called the ‘Rotund Disc Snail’, this is a very small snail with 6 tightly packed whorls. The flattened shell is reddish-brown with darker cross bands. The body of the animal is bluish black on the upperside and pale below. Shell diameter 7mm.

Found in gardens and woodland under rocks and logs, and amongst leaf litter. Common and widespread in lowland areas.

Photograph taken March 2014, found under log, rear garden, Staffordshire.

White-lipped Snail

Cepaea hortensis

As much as I love my garden, these slimy creatures seem to love it more – they are slowly, but surely chomping their way through it!

The shell of this snail is quite variable, ranging from all over yellow  to yellow with dark brown spiral bands. The lip of the shell is almost always white. Shell diameter 16 to 20mm.

They can live for up to 3 years, and are found in gardens, woods and hedgerows. It is actve during the day in wet and mild conditions, found resting or feeding on vegetation. Common and widespread throughout Britain and Ireland.

Photographs taken June 2014, rear garden, Staffordshire.